Our View: Still not sold

DKS Editors

Safely into its third fiscal year, Kent State’s newest budget model looks like it’s here to stay. The “butts-in-seats” model, which financially rewards departments with higher enrollment, is receiving sound reviews from administrators, but we’re still not convinced it’s the best way to manage the university’s budget.

Before July 2009, colleges gave their revenue to one big pool managed by the Office of the Provost, and the provost would reallocate the money based on departments’ needs and requests. RCM eliminates the middleman and gives deans more power and freedom with their budgets, but the model also focuses on enrollment, which takes away an even playing field — making departments compete like small businesses.

Certain schools get the short end of the stick — like the School of Art. Classes in the arts require costly materials, but enrollment is limited because class sizes are small. Small classes also mean professors cost more because the department has to provide an instructor for every 20-or-so students instead of the 100 or more you might find in a history lecture. This is also the case with the School of Digital Sciences, which requires expensive equipment but has one of the university’s smaller enrollments.

Deans can choose to pull money from departments that are doing well to help those that are struggling, but Tim Moerland, assistant to the Provost, has said he hopes department chairs can figure out how to live within their means.

Moerland, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said he has felt the tension of competition between departments, but that’s just “part of the beast” of RCM.

Of course the university is adapting after three years with the system, and deans who first fought the change seem to have adjusted. But the model is still relatively new, and we hope administrators continue to work out kinks. We don’t want to see competition hindering cooperation, and we hate to think of Kent State running solely as a business when it is so much more.